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Happy May Day!

Can you believe it's May already? Time sure does fly! April was busy for me. I started (and failed) NaNoWriMo. I also got a job! Full-time at a webdesign agency. I'm in my second week now and it's been going well. Still learning the ropes and adjusting to being awake in the a.m., but so far so good. :)

How was your April? Do anything exciting? Do you have any fun plans for May?
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And as promised, here is your free May calendar! Enjoy!!

Free Desktop Calendar: April 2014

I know it's halfway through the month, but I thought it might be fun to give you, my loyal readers, a free desktop calendar! I will try to remember to do this every month, if you want. (And please let me know if you need a different screen resolution than the ones I've got uploaded already.)

Another one bites the dust

Well, one of the six books I was attempting to read is back in the "return to the library" pile already. I definitely do NOT recommend The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White. I could only force myself to read a chapter and a half, but I just couldn't take it anymore.

This book has the most beautiful bookcover, so I was expecting a beautiful book. Instead we have a sullen, sarcastic, very-American-sounding teenager shoehorned into this beautiful Egyptian world. It just doesn't work.

Every time I started to get swept away by the story, the main character rolled her eyes and got annoyed and my suspension of disbelief was shattered. Great idea. Horrible execution.

I'll be adding this book to take it's place instead: Wildwood by Colin Meloy. This isn't actually a library book, but one I bought (so I better like it!!). It's supposedly a Narnia-like story set in Portland (where I used to live), and the cover is mesmerizingly beautiful, so... I had to try it!

Do you read multiple books?

I'm going to try something nuts and actively read 6 books at once. I mean, I do normally have at least a couple going at once, and honestly I've got about 20 others started but they're now hibernating on my "Shelved but not abandoned" pile. But generally speaking I don't actively read quite this many at once. Am I crazy to attempt it?

So... my current situation is that I'm in the middle of a super good book, Skybreaker, which is a library book, but I have a stack of other library books also starring at me saying, "Read me! Read me! I'm your new favorite book! Why are you ignoring me?" So I figured, "Why not? Let's aim to read at least one chapter a day in each of them. If one of them grabs me and sucks me in and forces me to read more, who am I to argue? But at least I won't be distracted by wishing I knew what the other books on my shelf are about.

How 'bout you? Do you read multiple books at once? If so, why? If not, have …

Premade Blogger Templates

Got a bunch of new Blogger templates up in the shop recently. I also took out a lot of the older ones w/ the intention of simplifying them and re-uploading them, but of course I've been to busy to actually get them back up! Oops...





Summary of Book Review: January - March 2014

I've been catching up posting book reviews of books I've read this year. In case you missed them... here's a list of them all! (PS: I'll probably be back-dating some reviews for last year soon, so I'll let you know when I've got those up as well).

January 2014On Writing by Stephen King
Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Remote: Office Not Required by Jason Fried
Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins
Sweet Little Lies by Lauren Conrad
February 2014Wuthering High by Cara Lockwood
Timebound by Rysa Walker
Never Have I Ever by Katie Heaney
The Fallen by Celia Thomson
March 2014The Archived by Victoria Schwab The Awakening by L. J. Smith Thirty-Two Going on... Spinster by Becky Monson The Stolen by Celia Thomson Airborne by Kenneth Oppel

Book Review: Airborn

This book is so cool. I fell in love with it from page one and can't wait to finish the series. It reminds me a lot of my favorite book when I was growing up: The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, only from a boy's perspective and in a slightly altered steam-punk-ish version of history.
Matt Cruse is a 15-year-old cabin boy onboard an airship that sails over the Pacific Ocean. He teams up with a wealthy passenger, Kate de Vries, to explore a tropical island, defeat evil pirates, and save their ship from certain danger.
I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.

Book Review: The Stolen (Nine Lives of Chloe King)

This is book 2 of the Nine Lives of Chloe King series. Overall, I sort of like the storyline but the writing is mediocre at best. I can't say I really recommend this series, although I'm sort of curious to see what happens next, so I'll probably finish it at some point. The last half of this book was better than the first half but I still found myself struggling to finish.

I give this 3 out of 5 stars.

Book Review: Thirty-Two Going on... Spinster

Okay I dug this out of my "abandoned" shelf to finish it b/c it really was a small book and I couldn't stand abandoning one that was this small... but seriously... this book is awful. It's basically a train-of-thought monologue of the main character as she whines about how boring her life is, her spinster-y she is, and how much she hates her job. I actually diligently read through about 3 chapters but then I had to take flying leaps through the rest of the book, speed reading it in about 20 minutes just so that I could find out how it ended.

I kid you not, conversations took pages... PAGES!... simply because the narrator couldn't stop thinking. I. Really. Don't. Care. Just have a conversation. I don't need to know what type of danish you're dreaming of in between every line of dialogue. No joke. A page of thought. Then a line of the conversation. Then another page of thought. Then another line of conversation. I began just jumping from dialogue line t…

Book Review: The Awakening (Vampire Diaries)

Wow this book is bad. At first is was somewhat bearable, somewhat interesting, but the story never actually picked up and the characters never really developed.

There is some difference between this and the tv show, which was to be expected, but I didn't think it'd be quite so different. While the show is intense and mysterious, this book is just boring. Nothing happens. We basically listen to Elena whine for 9/10 of the book about how Stefan is ignoring her. I'm sorry, but that's not very interesting.

The characters are completely one-dimensional and unsympathetic. I never really cared what they were up to, which I really should, as the reader of a book. The protagonists were boring and whiny, and the antagonist was so one-dimensionally evil that he didn't even seem real.

This book just reeked of sloppy writing, which I can only attribute to the fact that it was written in the 90's, well before YA became a best-selling genre. It's like the author didn…

Book Review: The Archived

Alright I gotta be honest. The first 7-8 chapters deserve about 2 out of 5 stars, at most. The rest of the book, especially the last half, deserve about 7 out of 5 stars. Super good. I'll balance it out by giving this book a 5-star rating, but don't think that's because it's perfect, because it's not. Just wanted to clarify that.

Once I got past the beginning, this book was fabulously entertaining. We enter a realm where things aren't always what they appear to be, and mysteries are a way of life for the main chracter, Mackenzie Bishop. Mackenzie is a Keeper, someone who can see escaped Histories (the dead who have woken up) and whose job it is to return them to the Archives (where the Histories are cataloged... sort of a library that files away all the dead people who've died in that part of the city).

** Spoiler Alert -- the following paragraphs contain minor book spoilers, just to warn you ** 

There were two main issues I had with the beginning of this bo…

Book Review: The Fallen (Nine Lives of Chloe King)

A pretty good page-turner. I initially picked up this series because I enjoyed the short-lived ABC Family show of the same name, although the books don't totally follow the same storyline as the show.

I can't rate this very high though because I found the inordinate amount of sexual situations and profanity to be a bit unnerving in a YA book. The storyline really doesn't need this and it ends up feeling forced, like the author was trying to up the rating on the book (if books had ratings like tv shows and movies do).

Some of the relationships between characters also feel forced and awkward, unfortunately, which is another downside to an otherwise enjoyable book. The scenes with Chloe learning about her cat abilities are great; I just wish the rest of the book had felt so similarly free and unhindered.

I give this book 3 out of 5 stars.

Book Review: Never Have I Ever

I swear I could've written this book. Sure the names of the boys I crushed on in school are different and some of the situations are slightly off from what I've experienced, but this is basically my life.

As a perpetually single, introverted, Christian girl coming of age in the 90's... Katie's experiences ring very similarly to my own. I've been the awkward wallflower at parties (still am, let's face it). I've been the one who's had guys I liked asking me to please help them get back with my best friend (oddly it's comforting knowing I'm not the only one that's happened too). I absolutely wrote stuff down in Lisa Frank journals (I mean, who didn't in the 90's? Seriously).

At most every page of this memoir, I find myself nodding in agreement or grimacing as I realize just how awkward and weird I really was as a younger person (and secretly hoping that maybe I've grown out of all that). Not everyone's life is a romance novel a…

Book Review: Timebound

I'd say this book needs 3.5 or 3.75 stars, rather than a full 4, but only because there were a few gaping plot holes that I felt like I had to overlook in order to fully buy into this story. Other than that though (I won't spoil you with the details), I thought this was a great page-turner and I can't wait until the next in the series comes out this fall!

In summary, this book follows the story of Kate Pierce-Keller, as she travels back in time to 1890's Chicago to save her timeline from being altered... and also to save her own life from being erased in the process.

I give the book itself 3.75 out of 5 stars. I give the cover art 10 out of 5 stars.

Book Review: Wuthering High

Super cute story, despite the numerous typos and grammatical errors. Once I got past that though, it really was a great book. A romantic ghost-story set in a boarding school - what more could you want in a book?

Miranda gets shipped off to a juvenile detention school that's haunted by the spirits of dead writers and fictional book characters. Her and her friends race to figure out the mysteries before their school is doomed forever!

Sidenote... I did begin the second book in this series, but was bored out of my gourd. This first book is pretty good, but I don't recommend continuing the rest of the series. Somehow the writing disintegrated very quickly.

I give this first book 3 out of 5 stars (and the second book 1/2 star out of 5 -- I didn't finish it or even get very far in it, so I won't be posting a review).

Book Review: Sweet Little Lies (L.A. Candy)

A quick and easy read, Sweet Little Lies is the second in a series by Lauren Conrad, a fictional account of her own life as a reality t.v. star. (For those of you living under a rock... Lauren rocketed to tabloid cover status when her and her high school friends were filmed for the MTV reality show Laguna Beach. She also starred in the spin-off show The Hills.)

As I read this and the previous book in the series, I found myself trying to figure out who was who (since most of these characters are based off of real life people). Lauren does a good job of disguising the guys especially, but it's fairly obvious who most of the girl friends were based on if you've seen the tv shows.

I give this book 3 out of 5 stars. Nothing to write home about, but definitely a fun weekend beach read.

Book Review: Gregor the Overlander (Underland Chronicles)

This book was super cute, and although aimed at a younger audience, I still really enjoyed it.

I've actually had this book on my shelf for years and it just occurred to me that it is by the author of The Hunger Games (a series that I loved!). While I wouldn't say it's as good as those, this book was still very interesting and I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

Basically, we follow Gregor and his sister Boots as they fall out of a NYC laundry room into an underworld ruled by giant bugs, bats, and rats. They go on an Alice-in-Wonderland-like adventure as they quest to make it back home in one piece.

I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Baby-Sitters Club: Then and Now

Book cover changes can sometimes be a good thing. As a graphic designer, I can appreciate that fact. They can introduce a new generation to an old classic that might not otherwise be glanced at.

Sometimes, however...

This happens...


I guess it's better than this previous remake (which thankfully I've never noticed before):


But sometimes I just have to ask... why mess with the original? It was great and it makes me nostalgic just to look it! I admit the girls look a little outdated, but then again... this series is set in the 80's. How else should they look?


Of all the remakes I found of this cover, I think the 1995 version was the best (though I still prefer the original). It updates the cover image to appeal to a new generation, but it still maintains the spirit of the original. I wish the current book cover design had been as thoughtful.

App Review: Runtastic Pedometer

According to smart, healthy-type people, it's best to aim for walking 10,000 steps a day. (In other words, 5 miles a day). As a perpetual couch potato myself, that sounds like a tall order! The Walking Site explains that the average sedentary person (sounds like me!) walks about 1000-3000 steps a day, on average. No wonder my metabolism has slowed down post-high-school! I definitely qualify as a sedentary person.

So... naturally this information made me curious to see how many steps a day I'm walking. I found an interesting free iPhone app (it's also available for Android phones) that you just turn on and leave in your pocket all day. It tracks not only your steps but also translates that into miles. Yesterday I tried it out and walked about 4000 steps (I went for a 15-20 minute walk in the morning, which I normally don't do).

I'm very curious to see over the course of time, how much I walk on average (and whether or not this will motivate me to walk more). I do t…

Book Review: Remote - Office Not Required

As a remote worker myself, this book is preaching to the choir. It repeats itself a lot but is a quick read and gives some great ideas and insights to the practice of remote working.

While I sometimes felt like it was just an advertisement for the author's own company, 37 Signals, most of the time this book just made good sense and found me wishing more companies would operate this way.

A quick read - I give 3.75 out of 5 stars.

Project 365: Week 3

Site Design: Social Demand NY

I recently finished up a fun web project for a social marketing start-up in New York City. I designed a mobile-responsive splash-page style website on the Squarespace platform.

I wish I could say I had to travel there to consult for the project, but alas... I'm still here in sunny California. ;P

Project 365: Week 2

Book Review: Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles)

This was an excellent book and I can't wait to read the rest of the series. Cinder is set in a dystopian future where robots are second-class citizens, and robot-human hybrids are even lower than that.

As the name of the book would suggest, this is a modern re-telling of the fairy tale, Cinderella. I liked that it didn't borrow so heavily from the original that the plotline became obvious. This book will keep you guessing until the end and leave you wanting more.

I give this book 6 out of 5 stars.

2014 TBR Pile • Top 20

On my 2014 "to be read" list... (in no particular order)



Homeland by Cory Doctorow
I read "Little Brother" this month and thoroughly enjoyed it. (Couldn't put it down actually - finished it in one sitting).

I've already started reading this and unfortunately it's MUCH slower paced than "Little Brother" so far. According to the online review though, if you can plod through the first 75 pages, the rest is much better.



The Circle by Dave Eggers
This book sounds interesting and the cover was illustrated by one of my current favorite illustrators, Jessica Hische... so that means it must be good, right? Like "Little Brother", this is also a techno-thriller story... technology takes over the world and the little guy fights back. Sounds promising!



Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
I started this book a couple years ago and really liked it. I was just... distracted... like I have been for years... so never finished it. This is the year for finishing…